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Joel Thibodeau of Death Vessel

STAY CLOSE • Death Vessel

While the cover illustration and the moniker of Death Vessel's Stay Close bring to mind Freakwater's dead baby songs and sepia toned murder ballads along the lines of the Louvin Brothers' "Knoxville Girl," Death Vessel does something more akin to what might be called Indi-cana: equal parts countrified folk along the lines of a Harry Smith devotee with the quirky sing-song delivery and serious but sometimes super silly lyrics that made Linda Hagood's early 90s outfit Smack Dab so charming.

The band's nucleus is Joel Thibodeau, who strums and sings. Like a girl. No lame insult, the man really does sing with a wavy gravy soprano: choirboy style. Add to that Thibodeau's penchant for penning bits about "harpooning wishes" and doing things both "san-serifly" and "pelicanly" making for something just off center in its straight ahead bouncy childlike purity. The sense of humor is inherent to playing it straight. This isn't Hee Haw, nor sideshow antics.

That said, my eight-month-old nursling finds it delightful. The high wavery jibberish atop banjo, guitar and simple repetitious melody tickles him. "Tidy Nervous Breakdown" with its boingy hoe down major chords, choral cry of "tidy! Tidy-eee!" and use of words like "pinwheel tine"and "fuselage" never fail to bring about a gummy smile and bright eyed attentiveness. The skitter scatter break beat, scratchy scratch fiddle and hollow body guitar meanderings of "Deep In the Horchata" welcomes full on giggles. 

Some of the lovelier moments on this charismatic disc include harmonies by the Baird sisters of Espers, the full tilt band action on the infectious "Break The Empress Crown," and an intriguing cover of Townes Van Zandt's "Snow Don't Fall," on which Death Vessel goes molasses to quite nice effect.

Stay Close merely hints at where these folks might go. Listen up! • Paige La Grone Babcock

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deathvessel.com     northeastindie.com

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